I am still here. Still standing. But I really thought I wasn’t going to make it.
On April 3, 2009, my 25 year old daughter Stephanie died of an (accidental?) overdose at the home of a friend, and everything in my world turned upside down. No — I mean it. That isn’t hyperbole. I lost everything except my son.
- My marriage (and subsequent relationships)
- My home (moving for the 8th time next weekend)
- My sanity
- Many of my friends
- And so on…
And I lost my ability to write. I don’t want to say that was the worst part, but writing is what I do. It’s who I am. Who are you when the thing that makes you you goes away?
Oh, I kept up with the technical writing because I needed to pay my bills and keep a roof over my head, but I lost my ability to sit down and put my thoughts and feelings on paper. I let my old blog lapse (and a smaller one that a few people followed). I ceased writing poetry. I no longer even pretended to want to write that great novel. Instead, I planned to write the story of the biggest loss I could ever have imagined, and even that fell apart.
In 2016, I sat down every morning at 6:00 to write for two hours during NaNoWriMo, and I managed ~25,000 words (about half what I needed to submit, so I didn’t even bother sending it in). I fizzled about halfway through the month because I was so tired and so triggered by the memories, even though I was creating a fictionalized account of parts of Stephanie’s life. I’ve tried so many approaches that I could wallpaper a house with the remnants of each attempt. They were bad. They wandered. They were incomplete and disappointing.
Grief is no joke. And I knew something about it, having lost my parents and having had a miscarriage years earlier. I even had a semester of Thanatology (the study of death, dying, and bereavement) under my belt at Hood College graduate school. Believe it or not, I was writing a paper on child bereavement (focusing on infant loss) when I got the dreaded doorbell ring that changed my life. Somehow I finished the semester, but I never went back. Life was schooling me in bereavement all on its own. Nothing ever prepares you for losing your child. I don’t care if it was an expected death or not. You just don’t know how it’s going to affect you or how you’ll deal with it. I wish none of us ever had to be in this awful club.
So why am I telling you this? Well, it’s just the tip of this giant iceberg I’ve been lugging around for the last 9 years. Whether anyone reads my blog or not, this is my new start. This is where I begin to tell my story, where I get my writing juices flowing again and try to make sense of the mountain I’ve been living under for far too long. I’ve been suffocating, and I’m ready to start chipping away at the stone. (Yes, there are mixed metaphors and cliches in this paragraph, and I don’t care.)
I hope you’ll stick with me as I wander my way through what was and what’s next. It will be worth it for both of us, I promise you.
Please enjoy this very appropriate song before you go. Peace, Jude ❤